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Metrac, Pierce Pacific Spawn Material Handler From John Deere Excavator

Wed November 19, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Combine the need for a new material handler with a heavy dash of brand loyalty and you’ll see the newest machine that’s hard at work at Jones Recycling.

Gary Jones, CEO and co-owner of the Jefferson, Ga., auto recycling business, had been talking with Metrac, the local John Deere dealer, for nearly two years about his need of a specialized machine.

With a specific task in mind, Jones had an extensive list of requirements for the machine.

“I needed the machine to load open top trailers and scrap metal,” Jones said.

While he knew of many material handlers on the market that would likely be able to handle the task, “we have John Deere wheel loaders and skid steers and I wanted a John Deere material handler. This is what evolved from that need.”

Nothing in the John Deere line fit exactly what Jones was seeking so Metrac, with the help of Portland, Ore.-based Pierce Pacific Manufacturing, designed something brand new.

Many people were involved with the mighty task. Metrac Sales Representative Ellis Jones sought the expertise of Operations Manager Nathan McFee and Service Manager Melvin Davis, both of whom work in Metrac’s Braselton, Ga., branch. Representatives from John Deere also were included in the huddle.

The group started with a John Deere 350D LC excavator. Pierce Pacific engineers and mechanics traveled to Georgia, where they removed the boom and arm from the excavator, replacing it with a pre-configured boom and arm with a grapple.

“When we started thinking about the machine we needed, we had initially considered going with a Deere 450, but after thinking things through, we didn’t need that big of a machine for our application,” Jones said. “The 350 is ideal for what we do and the volume we do.”

They also cut the tracks from the machine and welded in spacers for a wider track stance.

This step alone brought with it a new challenge, as the welders that were used required more power than what was available at Metrac’s shop.

The crew brought in specialized generators to provide the power required to complete the welding job.

Then, Pierce Pacific fabricated a pedestal to raise the cab several feet for optimal visibility and several counterweights were welded on in various areas that would not hinder visibility of the performance of the machine.

Completion of the machine took six months from Jones’ first serious discussion with Metrac and Pierce Pacific.

“As far as John Deere, if I’m not mistaken, this is the only material handler of its kind in the southeastern U.S.,” Jones said. “We’re well satisfied. It’s a great machine.”

It replaces another material handler that had logged its fair share of hours.

“It still works OK, but we knew we were going to have to invest in another new material handler and we knew we wanted to go with John Deere,” he said.

The machine has been hard at work at Jones Recycling for approximately two months with only one minor change.

“The hydraulic flow to the grapple had to be tweaked a bit when we first received the machine, which was no big deal at all,” Jones said. “Now that we have everything set the way we want it, the machine is perfect for us.”

That wasn’t a problem, since Metrac representatives were continuously on location to ensure the machine was operating as it should.

The machine works a lot of hours with minimal maintenance costs and ranks high among Jones’s employees when it comes to comfort.

“When an operator can sit in the machine and have the same comfort that he has sitting in his recliner in the living room, he’s going to turn out more volume,” Jones said. “I would estimate that, with factoring in performance, efficiency, fuel economy and operator comfort, we’re probably seeing a 15 to 20 percent increase in productivity.”

Jones Recycling’s loyalty to John Deere goes back 30-some years to Jones’s father.

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